B.D. carried certain objects. He observed in his dispositions and arrangements a certain order, and became irritable and fearful when that order was disrupted. There were certain words he said to himself at certain moments, power words. Sometimes he really believed in all of this; other times he believed in nothing. But he was alive, and he gave honour to all possible causes.

His name was Benjamin Delano Sears, B.D. for short, but his friends in the unit had taken to calling him Biddy because of his fussiness and the hennish way he brooded over them. He always had to know where they were. He bugged them about taking their malaria pills and their salt tablets. When they were out in the bush he drove them crazy with equipment checks. He acted like a squad leader, which he wasn’t and never would be, because Sergeant Holmes refused to consider him for the job. Sergeant Holmes had a number of sergeant-like sayings. One of them was, ‘If you don’t got what it takes, it’ll take what you gots.’ He had decided that B.D. didn’t have what it took, and B.D. didn’t argue; he knew even better than Sergeant Holmes how scared he was. He just wanted to get himself home, himself and his friends.

Most of them did get home. The unit had light casualties during B.D.’s tour, mainly through dumb luck. One by one B.D.’s friends rotated Stateside, and finally Ryan was the only one left. B.D. and Ryan had arrived the same week. They knew the same stories. The names of absent men and past operations and nowhere places had meaning for them, and those who came later began to regard the two of them as some kind of cultish remnant. And that was pretty much how B.D. and Ryan saw themselves.

Dancing in Cambodia
A Childhood in Terezin